Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Art of Therapeutic Recreation: A Specialist Works for Inclusion in an Inpatient Treatment Program by Using His Love of Art

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Art of Therapeutic Recreation: A Specialist Works for Inclusion in an Inpatient Treatment Program by Using His Love of Art

Article excerpt

Inclusion is the latest trend in parks and recreation, with professionals addressing methods for all consumers to become involved in their park and recreation district programs. The lessons in accomplishing this not-so-easy task come from many sources, including individuals who at the local level, make a difference every day for one patient at a time. This is the story of the relationship of Wayne Simonson, a recreation specialist at Western State Hospital (WSH) in Washington State with a client named Judith.

Wayne began working at this mental health hospital shortly after high school. His professional journey has included positions as a hospital attendant working in the fashion center, a recreation specialist (RS) in the ceramic shop and as a staff in the patient lounge. Wayne now works in the Center for Older Adult Services (COAS) on one of the eight wards housing an average of 30 consumers per ward.

Throughout both his career and his personal life, art serves as a mode of Wayne's self-expression. A self-proclaimed artist, he has often been asked by friends and colleagues to assist with their interior decorating and he has painted pictures, including a portrait of his mother. He was looking for a way to incorporate his love of art into his job at the hospital with COAS.

Wayne's responsibilities in COAS as an RS include providing group and one-to-one recreation programs for individuals 50 years old and above. He is creative in his methods to engage consumers who refuse group programs, often enabling an individual to eventually attend treatment classes.

He saw potential in Judith, even though she had previously had negative interactions with males. Wayne worked tirelessly to involve her in a group that he and another staff named Therapeutic Arts. "Judith was very distrusting due to her past abuse and did not want to be touched. It took many attempts to gain her trust so we could begin painting," states Wayne.

Wayne's earliest attempts to engage her were centered primarily toward gentle encouraging and empowering conversation during assigned program times, and attending Judith's treatment conferences. Judith's guardian reported that she had some college education with unconfirmed assumptions that some of her studies included artwork. Wayne asked frequent questions of Judith about her past interests and reviewed some of her personal photographs with her, in a reminiscence format where positive past experiences could be recalled.

This type of effort fosters the recapture of actual experiences which aide in developing treatment-based opportunities that the consumer is more apt to take part in. Judith's diagnosis includes paranoia which is exhibited through repetitive motions, negative statements of "... want to die ..." or agitation and pulling away from others, e.g. nursing staff who are helping Judith at meal times or assisting her with activities of daily living.

Judith's need for hands-on assistance is due to her physical disabilities of what appears to be rheumatoid arthritis. As a result, she requires assistance with bathing, dressing, eating, and therefore holding a paint brush or any other art medium that requires use of her hands. As the photos reflect, her hands are quite bent and knarled from this disease. Judith's physical diagnosis, coupled with her mental health diagnosis creates a challenge for any occupational or recreation therapist in selecting positive interventions for her.

Touch is a non-verbal form of communication and in mental health it is a critically cautious form of communication. Even a warm and caring form of touch may be invasive to one with long-standing mental health issues or to someone who may have been physically abused such as Judith. Different staff members had found that touching her without permission sometimes caused her to stand and pace a room or become agitated.

Wayne shared that he first needed "to gain verbal permission from Judith to touch her to get her to paint. …

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